Healing from Trauma and Abuse with NLP

As much as we would like for life to be a wonderful joyous experience, tragedy is a reality. Many people suffer traumatic events, physical or sexual abuse or other experiences that are difficult to heal from.

What do we do when tragedy occurs? How can we get back on our feet again, muster up the strength to move on and face life with a sense of courage and optimism? How can we heal the scars of tragedy?

Just last week I worked with a woman who has suffered from childhood abuse and wanted to get rid of the negative programming left behind by this event. At the end of our first session, after using an NLP process called Reimprinting, she began to cry. I asked her what those were tears of. She answered, saying, “I feel happy… and I don’t think I have ever felt this before.”

It was a beautiful moment, and one that is possible for others who have suffered from traumatic events that still haunt them.

Traumatic events can destroy an entire life… but it doesn’t have to be that way.

After experiencing a traumatic event, either as a child or an adult, some people are able to heal, move forward and live a fulfilling life. Others are paralyzed by the pain, unable to heal and move on and haunted by disturbing memories and difficulties in many areas of life.

What is the difference?

Dealing with Painful Memories

If you are suffering from painful memories and haunted by past events that you’d like to let go of, what can you do?

The answer begins in the science of memory.

Think for a moment about how memory works. Many conceive of their memory as being an accurate representation of events, yet science has proven that this is not the case.

The brain is not a video camera: memory is fallible.

When we experience an event, the mind processes sensory information and encodes it as a memory. The event is then over and done with, but the memory remains. The memory is like a snapshot of the event and sticks in the mind like a template. The memory is not the event.

The events that we lived and our memory of them is not the same. As we take in information, we delete, distort and generalize and give the event meaning. We then encode the information and store it in the mind.

Science has shown that one’s memory of an event is not equal to the event itself and in fact, the event is likely very different from your memory of it.

In his book Social Intelligence, Daniel Goleman (author of Emotional Intelligence) writes: “Our memories are in part reconstructions. Whenever we retrieve a memory, the brain rewrites it a bit, updating the past according to our present concerns and understanding.”

If memory is not a fully accurate representation of what occurred, what is it that causes us pain and holds us back? The event, or the memory?

As we store memories we encode them in certain ways. We give them meaning and store them in way the mind and body can read. A memory then functions as a template in the mind, telling us what to believe, what is true and how to think and behave.

Think of an unpleasant event from your past; not something major, just something small for the sake of this exercise. As you think of the memory, you will either be inside it as if you’re there right now or you’ll see yourself from the outside as an observer.

If you are inside the memory you will feel the emotions more intensely. To your mind and body it will be as if you are reliving the event. If you’re looking on from the outside, you’ll see that younger you, but your emotions will be less intense.

Someone suffering from PTSD or paralyzed by a past trauma will be inside the memory. Their mind will be replaying the event over and over again. It’s not just a flashback, it’s a fully interactive experience.

Someone who has recovered from a traumatic event will be outside of the event looking on as an obaerver. From there they have a feeling of detachment so they can deal with the memory resourcefully. It is like they’re just watching a movie.

It’s not the event or the memory that leaves someone paralyzed with fear and pain, but rather the way the mind has encoded it.

For someone who is suffering after a traumatic event, we need to change the way the event is stored in their mind so they can heal and move forward. There are several methods for doing this, each which works fairly quickly to produce a sense of relief and increased feeling of peace inside.

The methods of hypnosis and Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) have demonstrated impressive results in helping individuals recover from trauma and abuse. Various NLP process have proven effective in resolving traumatic memories and eliminating the self-defeating programming that these events have brought.

Re-imprinting: A psychological method by which the encoding of a past memory is modified, so a past memory that is causing limitations and harmful emotions becomes the foundation for a greater sense of resourcefulness.

When I guide suffers of abuse through this process, they report feelings of greater peace, happiness and balance.

Timeline Therapy: A method by which negative emotions can be let go of and the mind can be brought to re-evaluate/reprocess past events.

After bringing clients through this process, they report a greater sense of peace, lightness and peace with the past.

NLP Trauma Cure: This method can be used to neutralize negative emotions from a past memory.

Clients report having greater distance from past events and feel freer to move forward.

In his book Resolve: A New Model of Therapy, Richard Bolstat describes the NLP Trauma Cure as the most well researched of all NLP techniques. He mentions numerous studies that verified the efficacy of this method for various problems such as phobias, healing past memories and treating PTSD. His book includes transcripts of sessions in which these processes are used to heal past memories.

In The Trauma Trap by Dr. David Muss, extensive research into this process is documented. In one study he performed, he worked with 70 members of the West Midlands Police Department who had witnesses major disasters such as the Lockerbie air crash in Scottland in 1988 and of which 19 qualified as suffering from PTSD. All reported feeling completely free of PTSD symptoms after an average of three sessions. In his book, Muss says, “I know that it has worked for every patient I have dealt with so far, without exception.”

In addition to being used privately in various places in the world, these methods are currently being used with Canadian military veterans in Pembrooke, Ontario by a psychologist and practitioner of NLP.

Many sufferers of traumatic events suffer for months and years, turning to various methods of therapy and medication. Some may give up hope all together if these methods do not succeed. But the mind has the natural capacity to heal. When this does not occur, we can retrigger the mind’s innate resilience, re-encode memories in a way the enables a person to move on, and help them take back their life again.

Wendy describes what she gained from 3D Hypnosis:

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Healing from PTSD with NLP

Life is filled with challenges and setbacks. We are constantly faced with obstacles to overcome and at some point in life we will each face rejection loss or defeat. Yet sometimes events occur that are so terrible, so shattering, they leave a trail of suffering that can last a lifetime. Traumatic experiences can destroy lives, leaving victims plagued by fear and anxiety for years, with no end in sight. A traumatic event leaves a mark that cannot be removed.

Severe psychological trauma often results in a condition known as Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Events such as rape, violence, sexual abuse, war, or experiences of accidents or disasters can lead to the development of posttraumatic stress, as can the witnessing of a dangerous or tragic event. Sufferers of PTSD are tormented by inescapable memories of the trauma they lived or witnessed. When awake they are plagued by incessant flashbacks of the experience and haunted by nightmares while they sleep. Whereas they once lived a life of happiness and wellbeing, today the grip of pain, fear and anxiety is inescapable.

What can be done to help victims of trauma recover from the pain inflicted by the event and free themselves of the aftereffect which tend to haunt them day in and day out?

Like most mental health conditions, sufferers are prescribed medication and psychotherapy. Medication may ease their suffering, but medication is far from a solution. Emotional healing does not come in a pill. Add to this that talk therapy provides little respite for the victim of a trauma. PTSD leaves a mark for life, or does it?

There are those who experience a trauma, and recover. They have healed emotionally and have moved on with life. The live in the present, no longer haunted by a terrible past and free of anxiety and fear. Somehow they were able to free themselves of a horrific past and move on to a better future.

What is their secret? Do such people hold the key to treating suffers of PTSD?

Indeed, they do.

Sufferers of PTSD experience the traumatic memory or memories in a particular way. When they remember the trauma or experience flashbacks, it is as if they are there once again in the moment, looking through their eyes, re-experiencing it all over again. Every time they think of it, they re-experience the event in their mind as if it were occurring now. They relive it again and again, when experiencing it once was enough. Yet those who have recovered experience the memory in a very different way.

An individual who experienced a traumatic event but recovered will remember the event with one extremely fundamental difference. When they look back on the event they will see themselves in the movie. Instead of being there in the moment, they will be looking on as an observer, seeing the event as if it happened to someone else. It is the difference between being in a scary movie and watching a scary movie – the two experiences are far from the same. This way of encoding the memory gives them a powerful psychological distance. They have an empowering objectivity and the result is that they don’t feel the painful emotions they experienced back then.

In both cases, the actual event remains traumatic, but the way the memory has been encoded by the brain is different. In one case, the event is encoded in a way that leads to incessant suffering and constant fear. In the other, the event is encoded in a way that leaves the individual with a sense of resourcefulness and wellbeing. We can’t change what happened, but we can change how we feel about what happened.

Since we know this, we can guide a sufferer of PTSD to re-encode the memory of the traumatic event in a way that frees them from the endless pain and suffering. Through a psychological process known as V/K Dissociation (Visual – seeing the memory, Kinesthetic – the feelings associated with the memory), a method that is widely unknown yet highly effective for treating victims of trauma, in a number of minutes, an individual who has lived a trauma can be helped to experience the memory in a new way. This short process can provide the individual with an enormous sense of relief.

I had the opportunity to assist a young woman who has been the victim of a violent rape and beating not long ago. When she came to me she was unable to function, barely left her apartment, and was unable to work. After only four hours of work together she reported that the pain she had for years was gone. She was able to move and began working. In her own words, “I feel free now.”

Why should someone live in fear and pain for the rest of their life simply because something bad happened to them randomly? In just a few hours, one can make a major advancement towards emotional freedom. For a complete recovery and true healing to occur, further work is required. With the right methods, PTSD can be left behind and the door to wellbeing can be opened once again.

Yet this method is widely unknown. Sufferers of PTSD are prescribed medication as if it is the only solution and send for hours and hours of talk therapy in which they rehash the event they so badly want to escape from. As if reliving it every day wasn’t bad enough, they have to pay someone to talk about it some more. The belief here is that the more times victims of a trauma go over their traumatic experience, the better they will feel, but it simply isn’t so. To effectively treat PTSD we need to move toward a better future, not delve into a horrid past. Talking about a problem is very different from doing something that can lead to a solution.

In addition to V/K dissociation, there are a number of methods that can be used to treat posttraumatic stress effectively. Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT) are becoming more and more popular as an alternative choice as is EMDR (eye movement desensitization and reprocessing), a method that has made its way into conventional psychology. To optimize treatment and free individuals of suffering, a combination of such methods is the best approach.

Healing is possible.

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Sticky Problems: Simplifying Complexity

Most people would say that change is difficult. Many people have tried wholeheartedly to change things in themselves or their behaviour, but failed. Sometimes people have tried many things, and the lack of results has led them to give up on pursuing those things that really matter to them. For many, the subject of change elicits a sense of powerlessness. Why do people get so stuck?

I call these types of problems “sticky problems.” No matter what we do, they seem to stick. What’s up with that?

I have been fascinated by the complexity of many common problems and been obsessed with finding the difference that makes the difference in people’s efforts to change. I have witnessed people make impressive changes very quickly, and also seen people struggle with the same problem for years. I was one of the latter, hence my fascination. If I could figure this out, I could change things for myself too.

It took a long time, but through my own struggles and by working with dozens and dozens of people, I have uncovered the structure of stuckness.

First-Order Change

Have you ever considered what it is the makes change so difficult? It’s simple: Most people go about change in the wrong way. What we do instinctively to rid themselves of a problem usually makes it worse. Who would have thought? In psychology, this is referred to as “first-order change.”

Caught in this loop of trying to change and things getting worse it’s easy to conclude that change is hard, but in reality it’s the approach that’s ineffective. Try to shovel of driveway of snow with a rake and you can easily conclude that snow’s tough to get rid of.

How come our efforts are ineffective?

Usually our efforts to “change” are really a form of resistance. We want to “get rid” of the problem, anything to just make it go away because it isn’t what we want. The anxiety isn’t how we want to feel, so we try to control the feelings. The addiction isn’t what we want, so we fight the behaviour. The doubt isn’t helping us, so we try to repress and suppress it. Try as much as you want to fight the symptom, but it will fight back. In this case, what you resist persists and what you’ll find is that the more you try to change things, the more things stay the same… or get worse.

Why doesn’t resistance work?

Most of the time when we are struggling to change, we aren’t even dealing with the real problem. Consider how you know that something is a problem in the first place: something’s going wrong. But usually, what we are aware of is the symptom and not the real problem at all.

If you’ve ever tried to kick a habit or beat an addiction, you know how hard it can be. You try and try, but in the end, the habit wins out. Why is it so tough? Because the behaviour is driven by underlying psychological influences; it is the symptom of hidden causes. Depression and anxiety are not the problem, they are the symptom. Addictions and self-defeating behaviours are not the problem, they are the symptom. Feeling helpless, hopeless and worthless is not the problem, it’s the symptom. And resisting the symptoms gets us stuck in a downward spiral.

What happens when we get stuck in this loop?

It’s a fascinating aspect of human behaviour that even when something isn’t working, we’ll keep doing it in hopes that eventually it will. We do the same thing, again and again, and wonder why it’s so hard. Try to shovel a driveway of snow with a rake and you’ll conclude that it’s pretty tough to get rid of snow. But if what you’re doing isn’t working, it’s time to do something else – anything else.

When efforts to change fail, most people will conclude that change is hard and that theirs is “an impossible case.” They fall into the trap of “I can’t change this.” Almost anytime someone has a problem that they’ve failed to resolve, this kind of thinking will be in play. Because the problem has been resistant to change, we come to believe that it is permanent.

But is it really permanent?

Beliefs act as powerful signals to the mind and body. When you believe that your problem is unsolvable, what occurs? This has a solidifying affect on the symptoms. They are held in place, and you will actually stop yourself from experiencing any change or even doing what it takes. In this case, if you think you can’t change, you’ll prove yourself right.

In reality, failed efforts to change don’t mean you can’t. What they mean is that what you have been doing to change is not working and so you have to do something else.

Ambivalence to change

Why else are these kinds of problems sticky? Take any chronic problem- anxiety, depression, addiction, and if you dig deep enough, you’ll find ambivalence to change. Part of the person wants to keep the problem and part of them wants to change. Think about it; when it comes to addiction, part of the person want to use and part of them wants to stop. The inner conflict is what keeps the cycle going. Anyone trying to help will meet with resistance because the part that wants things to stay the same will fight to defend itself.

Few people will even be aware of the internal civil war. It’s easy to say change is hard when the reality is that change can only happen when all of you wants it. Part of almost every problem that sticks is a conflict like this. For change to occur you have to congruently want it, and in fact, it’s not difficult to resolve an inner conflict when we know how.

Linked to the above may be a fear of change? It’s so common for people to say and think they want change but to secretly fear it. People like to stick with what’s familiar – it is the known and so, it’s safe. Often we want to stick with what we know and what’s familiar, even if it’s not what we want. Why? What if changing makes things worse! People will only change if they are convinced the change will be beneficial.

It’s clear that fear of change will prevent change from happening. Wanting it yet fearing it is like driving with the break on.

Almost everyone with an unresolved problem will say, ” I know what the real problem is,” but in actuality they are aware of the sum total of the problem: the symptoms. The causes and the underlying structure of the problem are hidden from conscious awareness, operating behind the scenes.

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The Lust for Change

It’s human nature to want more of what feels good, and less – or none – of what doesn’t. And so, when we experience problems, challenges and pain – emotional or physical - we just want 
it to go away. Sometimes we’ll do anything to just “get rid of it” so we can feel good again. We wish there was a magic pill, and sometimes there is. We take it and we’re happy.

But does this lust for a quick fix get us into trouble?

There might be a cultural element too. All day long we see ads and commercials that portray an idyllic world. Buy this product and you could be beautiful and loved and desired and wealthy and admired. Don’t you deserve it? You could have the luxury and status that comes with this car. You could command the opposite (or same) sex to your wishes with this perfume. Eat this food and you’ll have the power of a superhero.

Our culture indirectly teaches us that life should be perfect. We should be happy, healthy, wealthy and successful… and if we’re not, there’s something wrong with us. In our interactions with each other, we reinforce this. If you’re down, people tell you to smile and think they need to cheer you up. If you’re anxious, people tell you to “relax!” our culture is based on a hidden assumption that manifests itself all over: we shouldn’t have problems.

The combination of our nature with this cultural mentality causes a major problem for us:

When things don’t go our way, we fight, resist, avoid and deny.

When we’re stuck, struggling or hurting, we think “it shouldn’t be that way”… “I shouldn’t have this problem”… “Why me?”… And all that leads to “I’ve got to get rid of this now.”

Each of us has an automatic and habitual response to problems. It is our default problems solving strategy… but often, it’s not a problem solving strategy at all.

Just this morning I heard a quote on TV: “We can’t choose what happens to us. All we can choose is what we do about it.”

Our default problems strategy arises naturally out of how we see and view probelms – the hidden assumptions we have about “problems” that naturally lead to behaviour.

Think of a problem or situation that is giving you trouble and take a moment to consider the following questions:

What do you believe about that “problem”?
How do you feel about it? With what states or feelings are you responding to it?

Often, when we continue to struggle with a problem, the beliefs we have about it are these:

I shouldn’t have this problem
It shouldn’t be this way
It shouldn’t be happening
I have to get rid of it

When this is our view of a situation we encounter, it send us into states of urgency and demandingness.

Do urgency and demandingness really help us solve problems?

In these states, we aren’t committed to change, we aren’t requesting it, we aren’t working towards it…. We are demanding it… NOW!

We just want to get rid of it, and we want a quick fix! Anything to make it go away. It’s a lust for change.

What is the real impact of urgency and demandingness?

These states only make things worse. Why? Because they cause us to resist what is. We end up in a battle with reality. Then, we find ourselves stuck in a loop as our efforts to “solve” the problem actually make it worse. The lust for results is like fuel on the fire. Urgency and demandingness crank up the intensity of a problem and make it harder to solve.

When it comes to our own psychology, what we resist persists. The more we resist and the more we demand, the worse it will get. These states actually prevent us from entering into the kind of state that really does help us solve problems: openness and curiosity.

Our default view of problems as “things to be gotten rid of” is often far from the reality. When we become aware of our beliefs and perceptions about situations and begin to question them, new things open up. We begin to see other facets of the situations we find ourselves in; what benefit or value they may have, where they may be leading us, how they might be an opportunity.

I am not saying “just see all problems as an opportunity.” What I am saying is inquire into your beliefs about problems and question them. You will see what comes and likely, find a deeper truth.

There is a Buddhist story that gives us some new insight into problems.

A man goes to see the Buddha for help with all kinds of troubles. Yet, to each one, the Buddha says he cannot help.

In shock, the man says “if you can’t help with these problems what good are you?”

The Buddha replies:

“You have 83 problems and I can’t help you with them. But I can help you with your 84th problem.”

“What’s that?” the man asks.

The buddha’s reply? “That you think you shouldn’t have problems.”

Posted in Belief Systems, Change, Depression | Leave a comment

Your Personal Philosophy: Belief Systems and The Acquisition of Knowledge

How do we know what we know?

As we go through life, each of us forms our own unique personal philosophy as we acquire beliefs and form belief systems. although we barely realize it, our beliefs (what we Think is true) guide our thinking and decisions, fuel our emotions, and in large part shape our lives.

But how do we know that what we know is true?

If our beliefs were true, they wouldn’t be beliefs, they’d be facts. But we go through life convinced that our beliefs are true, holding unquestioning faith in things we decided long long ago, and often, finding more and more evidence that we are right as we interpret the world through the lens of our beliefs.

Your Personal Philosophy

Each of us lives out of a personal philosophy. This personal philosophy shapes our behaviour and emotions, guides our choices and decisions, dictates our motivations.

Behind symptoms of depression we will find a personal philosophy characterized by pessimism about the future, hopelessness, helplessness and worthlessness. Behind anxiety lies a personal philosophy about future dangers, the need to avoid them and powerlessness to do so. What about obsessive-compulsive disorder, pathological gambling, eating disorders, personality disorders, dependency and addictions? A personal philosophy is hiding behind the scenes and behind the symptoms.

Those who achieve impressive levels of performance, wealth and success did it as a result of their personal philosophy. That person who is always so happy and seems to get what they want, while everyone else wonders how they do it, is able to consistently get the same results as a result of the collection of ideas, assumptions and convictions they are living out of; their personal philosophy.

Get a degree in philosophy and unfortunately you won’t be seen as highy valuable in the job market, but philosophy rules our lives. Our society, economy and government are all based on philosophies. Our lives are no different, and so, each of us is a philosopher.

Some of us have a personal philosophy that leads to empowerment, happiness and achievement while others have a personal philosophy that ruins their lives. Mother Theresa’s life was shaped by a personal philosophy. So was Ghandi’s and Lincoln’s and Osama Bin Laden’s. The schizophrenic has a very unique personal philosophy that leads to his symptoms, as does the addict, the stutterer and the phobic.

What do you believe? What is your truth? What hidden assumptions direct your choices, actions, motivation?

Although it dictates our life, our personal philosophy is mostly unconscious, hidden from our awareness, and as such, unquestioned and unchallenged.

How does your personal philosophy develop?

You probably didn’t form your core beliefs yesterday. For most of us, our deepest beliefs formed when we were children, formed as the mind of a child attempted to make sense of of painful events. This philosophy then acts as a powerful command to our nervous system for the rest of our lives.

According to science, There are 5 methods of acquiring knowledge, and it is through these methods that we formed the personal philosophy upon which our life is currently based and through these methods that our beliefs (both the empowering ones and the not so empowering ones) are held in place.

The 5 Methods of Acquiring Knowledge

1. The Method of Tenacity

According to the method of tenacity, we believe what we believe because it has been held as true for a long time. As a result, we hold things to be true out of habit or superstition. Of course, the more we hear a statement, the more we’ll believe it, and so, as children we come to believe what is repeated often; repetition= truth.

Not too long ago, everyone believed the world was flat, and it was heresy to challenge this. Popular belief once held that the sun revolved around the earth and anyone who didn’t agree was nuts. Today, we are guided by popular ideas held by tenacity. All of the “that’s not possible” or “that’s just the way it is” and the “you can’t do thats”.

Are they really true or merely superstition?

2. The Method of Intuition

According to the method of intuition, we determine what is true because it feels right. When we trust our gut, we’re relying on the method of intuition. In some cases intuition can be reliable and useful, but often our intuition is just plain wrong and what feels true isn’t true at all.

How can we tell the difference?

3. The Method of Authority

Using the method of authority, we acquire knowledge by trusting an expert or authority figure. Whenever we trust doctors, politicians, professors, leaders, celebrities, newspapers, books or information on the Internet we are relying on the assumed expertise of someone else.

This is also called the Method of Faith as people often have unquestionning trust in an authority figure and so, accept what they say without challenge or doubt.

Is this a problem? Experts can be wrong, can be biased, and can deliberately mislead. What’s more is that experts can disagree! What then? Everywhere you look you find conflicting information on nutrition and health. What we are told to eat one year is the next year’s public enemy.

As children we are subject to the authority of our parents. They are the experts and so we take what they say as Gospel truth. Even if they are troubled abusive or cruel, they are the authority and so what they say must be true.

Is it really? Was it?

4. The Rational Method

The Rational Method seeks knowledge through logic. According to this method, one begins with a fact or assumption and then reaches logically conclusions based on the initial assumptions.

The problem with this is two-fold: First, if the initial statements aren’t true, the logic doesn’t hold. Second, people are not good at logical reasoning! Most of our reasoning is faulty!

Often people keep themselves stuck because they reason based on assumptions that are both harmful and untrue. Few question the initial assumptions upon which their thinking is based. Logic then becomes a trap.

5. The Empirical Method

The Empirical Method seeks knowledge through direct experience. Through empiricism, we determine what is true through our senses; it’s true if we can see, hear and feel it.

When young, we determine what is true about life, the world and the future greatly through direct experience. We reason that what happens to us indicates the truth about life, but in reality our childhood usually has little to do with the rest of our life ( except to the extend we are trapped with childhood beliefs). Direct experience may tell us something is true, but it doesn’t mean it’s true in other times, contexts or situations. We easily overgeneralize from direct experience without realizing the past doesn’t equal the future.

The Empirical Approach is the “I’ll see it when I believe it” approach, but many things are true even though we don’t have direct experience of them. We can’t see bacteria with the naked eye but we know it’s there. The same is true of atoms, molecules and particples. A hundred years ago we had no direct experience of computers, but they were still possible.

What about optical illusions? These are also evidence of the fallibility of direct experience.

The sense tell us that ones of these lines is longer than the other, but a ruler will show they are identical in length.

Can we always trust our senses?

The Scientific Method… and Your Life

It was dissatisfaction with these methods of gathering information that led to the development of the scientific method. Science aimed to gain more reliable information about the world and have more confidence in the validity of the answers, and everyone knows that the scientific method rules the world today.

But each of us still lives in a world of superstition. We believe what has been believed, rely on faulty logic and trust shaky feelings and perceptions. We believe things because our mind tells us they are true, but the mind is cunningly deceptive.

What would happen if we would put our personal philosophy under the microscope and subject it to the tests of truth through the scientific method? This is precisely what cognitive and NLP-style interventions do to help us free ourselves of outdated mental
mapping that is keeping us stuck.

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The Presuppositions of NLP

In the 1970s, Richard Bandler, student of computer programming, and John Grinder, a professor of linguistics, set out to study “therapeutic wizards,” individuals who had become famous for their impressive results. They studied Virginia Satir, one of the developers of family therapy (and a person inspiration of mine.) They studied Fritz Perls, one of the co-developers of Gestalt therapy. And they studied the great hypnotherapist Milton Erickson.

Their initial aim was to uncover the structure of their “magic” and understood what they did with their language that led to the changes in their clients. Yet once they had created explicit models of effective communication in therapy, their questioning led them in a different direction. Was there more to the magic than the words?

Bandler and Grinder began to study the mind’s of these therapists. They wondered if how these people thought and what they believed was playing a role in the results they were getting. The ideas that they uncovered came to form the basis of NLP.

The presuppositions of NLP are ideas that are not necessarily true, but when we take them on, we achieve greater results in life. It is these ideas that form the basis of my approach with clients and often, when I am stuck, I turn to these ideas and find there is one I am not applying.

Below are some of the presuppositions of NLP. As you read through this list, consider what it would be like for you to apply these ideas in your life.

The map is not the territory.

The way we think things are is not necessarily the way they are. Our thoughts, feelings and beliefs are not reality, but merely the sense we have made of reality.

When we apply this principle, we find that to make changes in our lives, we don’t have to change things or ourselves, we merely have to change our model of the world (our view of things).

Person and behavior are different logical levels. A person is more than his or her behavior.

Often we mistake transient aspects of our experience for who we are as people. If we have a pattern, behaviour or problem and conclude, “This is who I am,” we’ll be stuck. In reality, no pattern or behaviour can represent the totality of who we are. We much more than our responses, behaviours and problems.

Every behavior is useful in some context. Behavior is to be evaluated in terms of its context and ecology.

Behaviours and responses are all useful in some context. Often, we learned a behaviour in one context (time period) and we are using it in another context where it is ineffective. Instead of then having to get rid of behaviours or responses we learn where we can use them and where we need some new options.

Behind every behavior is a positive intention.

In the human system, nothing happens for no reason. Problems are adaptations from earlier times and behaviours and emotions that we may judge negatively are there to serve a purpose. When we know what that purpose is, we can find more effective ways of achieving that purpose.

There is no failure, only feedback.

Failure is only a question of perspective. Whenever we attempt anything, we’ll always get a result. If we don’t get the result we want, we can take it as feedback informing us of what we need to do differently. This empowers us to learn from our mistakes and keep working to refine our approach until we are able to achieve what we want.

People have all the resources they need to be able to succeed.

If we believe we have all the resources within us to achieve what we want, we will find out what we have and find solutions where we need something more. If we do not believe this, we sabotage ourselves into powerlessness.

People make the best choices that are open to them.

People are doing what they have learned. Often, we are stuck doing something that is not enhancing our life simply because we have not learned other choices. By recognizing that we are making the only choice available to us we give ourselves a break and open ourselves to learning something new.

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A Model of Anxiety

Anxiety brings more people to therapy than any other psychological problem. According to the Public Health Agency of Canada, anxiety disorders affect 12% of the population, meaning over 4 million Canadians. Symptoms range from intense and excessive fear and worry, irritability, difficulty sleeping and concentrating to anxiety (panic) attacks, which may include heart pounding, sweating, shaking and other uncomfortable sensations. Impairment can be mild to severe, affecting social activities, relationships and work and school performance.

In the search for relief, those suffering from anxiety disorders may cope in ways that become problematic: alcohol, drugs, eating disorders, compulsive rituals and other behaviours aimed at escaping the anxiety. Medication is the treatment of choice, but there is little indication that drugs reduce the frequency or severity of symptoms.

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, fourth edition, text revision (DSM IV-TR) outlines 9 types of anxiety disorders:

Panic disorder with and without agoraphobia
Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD)
Social anxiety disorder
Specific phobia
Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
Anxiety secondary to medical condition
Acute stress disorder (ASD)
Substance-induced anxiety disorder

This model outlines what the DSM-IV has labeled Panic Disorder.

The DSM IV Criteria for a Panic Attack are as follows:

A discrete period of intense fear or discomfort, in which four (or more) of the following symptoms developed abruptly and reached a peak within 10 minutes:

1. palpitations, pounding heart, or accelerated heart rate
2. sweating
3. trembling or shaking
4. sensations of shortness of breath or smothering
5. feeling of choking
6. chest pain or discomfort
7. nausea or abdominal distress
8. feeling dizzy, unsteady, lightheaded, or faint
9. derealization (feelings of unreality) or depersonalization (being detached from oneself)
10. fear of losing control or going crazy
11. fear of dying
12. paresthesias (numbness or tingling sensations)
13. chills or hot flashes

The DSM IV outlines Panic Disorder as follows:

A) Both (1) and (2)

(1) recurrent unexpected Panic Attacks
(2) at least one of the attacks has been followed by 1 month (or more) of one (or more) of the following:

(a) persistent concern about having additional attacks
(b) worry about the implications of the attack or its consequences (e.g., losing control, having a heart attack, “going crazy”)
(c) a significant change in behavior related to the attacks

B) The Panic Attacks are not due to the direct physiological effects of a substance (e.g., a drug of abuse, a medication) or a general medical condition (e.g., hyperthyroidism).

C) The Panic Attacks are not better accounted for by another mental disorder, such as Social Phobia (e.g., occurring on exposure to feared social situations), Specific Phobia (e.g., on exposure to a specific phobic situation), Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (e.g., on exposure to dirt in someone with an obsession about contamination), Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (e.g., in response to stimuli associated with a severe stressor), or Separation Anxiety Disorder (e.g., in response to being away from home or close relatives).

The DSM IV also distinguishes between Panic Disorder and Panic Disorder with agoraphobia, which is outlined as follows:

Panic Disorder is divided into with or without agoraphobia

DSM IV Criteria for Agoraphobia

A) anxiety about being in places or situations from which escape might be difficult (or embarrassing) or in which help may not be available in the event of having an unexpected or situationally predisposed Panic Attack or panic-like symptoms. Agoraphobic fears typically involve characteristic clusters of situations that include being outside the home alone; being in a crowd, or standing in a line; being on a bridge; and traveling in a bus, train, or automobile.

B) The situations are avoided (e.g., travel is restricted) or else are endured with marked distress or with anxiety about having a Panic Attack or panic-like symptoms, or require the presence of a companion.

C) The anxiety or phobic avoidance is not better accounted for by another mental disorder, such as Social Phobia (e.g., avoidance limited to social situations because of fear of embarrassment), Specific Phobia (e.g., avoidance limited to a single situation like elevators), Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (e.g., avoidance of dirt in someone with an obsession about contamination), Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (e.g., avoidance of stimuli associated with a severe stressor), or Separation Anxiety Disorder (e.g., avoidance of leaving home or relatives).

An NLP Model of Anxiety

In this model, I use the word anxiety to refer to the overall pattern and experience of those suffering from this disorder and the word panic to denote the state of mind of intense fear that is a central aspect of this problem.

Denominalizing Anxiety: How Does Anxiety Work?

One of the principal ideas of NLP is that every human experience has a structure. When we look at an experience in this way, we move beyond trying to figure why it occurs and can explore how it works. As one in the vast array of possible human experiences, anxiety is no different; it has a pattern and structure.

The label “anxiety” is deceptive. We refer to anxiety as if it is a thing, but it’s not something we can see or touch. We don’t trip over a pile of anxiety on the street or find some in the kitchen cupboard. It is merely a trick of language that deceives us into thinking about it as if it were an object or thing, freezing a process into something static and condensing a complex pattern into one simple label. In reality, anxiety is a dynamic mental process with emotional and physiological effects.

The word “disorder” is also deceptive. NLP looks at disorders not as fixed things that we have, but more things that we do. To be more accurate, we might say “disordering” instead of disorder and “anxiety-ing” instead of anxiety. These are mental processes that we do, that require out participation to occur. Part of recovery is learning how we do them, as it is often unconscious and automatic, and learning new ways to think (ordering instead of disordering).

The experience of anxiety arises out of a number of psychological building blocks. By unfreezing “anxiety” and “panic” and breaking them down into their components, we can understand how the pieces interact to create these states of mind and also determine how to intervene. This is the basis of therapy with NLP and Neuro-Semantics.

The DSM criteria are useful guidelines for anxiety, but the criteria are somewhat vague and do not indicate methods for intervention. Throught modelling with NLP and Neuro-Semantics we can get more specific about the experience of anxiety and determine effective methods for its resolution.

The Building Blocks of Anxiety and Panic

The Pattern of Anxiety: An Overview

Most cases of moderate to severe anxiety begin with an experience of intense terror or apprehension. Although individuals may say “I’ve always been an anxious person,” most often they can relate an event which fueled the fire and intensified their experience, causing their anxiety to spiral out of control. This event “where it all began” is characterized by such an intense, uncontrollable and unpleasant state of panic that afterward, panic itself becomes the object of fear. The individual becomes driven by the desire to avoid such a state in the future at all costs. The event leads to a persistent fear of future attacks.

If you are in a car accident, when you are on the road again you may be extremely vigilant and take action to avoid another crash. A past unpleasant experience leads you to take action to prevent it from reoccurring. The fear and the action are both justified. The case of panic is different because there are no concrete actions one can take to prevent panicking. The individual wants to avoid such an experience but at the same time is convinced it will reoccur. In a way, they are in a double-bind: they have to avoid it but can’t do anything about it.

Their mental energy is thus taken up by expecting to panic and trying to avoid or prevent it through thinking and worrying, which actually makes it worse.

In many cases, to avoid the possibility of another attack, individuals will avoid places and situations that they expect will induce panic. Avoidance becomes a primary means of coping. In cases of Panic Disorder with agoraphobia, the person rarely or never leaves their in an effort to avoid the terror of panic.

In essence, the initial experience of panic was so marking that it becomes an an imprint experience; the event becomes a powerful memory that restructures the person’s thinking and functions as a template giving them internal signals as to how to think and feel. This kind of experience is an example of “one-trial learning”; due to one traumatic event a person learns an entirely new way of thinking. It only takes one event of panic to lead to the pattern of panic disorder.

The state of mind and pattern that this event leaves in its wake is noteworthy. The fear the individual experiences after the event is not an ordinary state of fear, as it is not a fear of something in the world (known as a primary state in NLP). Rather, it is a fear of one’s own experience; an intense fear of one’s own thoughts and emotions (a meta-state in NLP). Anxiety is fear of fear.

After the event, the person imagines future experiences of panic with a heightened sense of certainty that that experience will indeed occur. They then feel helpless in the face of that impending future. The combination of future expectation, heightened certainty, helplessness and apprehension about the whole experience lead to the uncontrollable state we call “anxiety.”

Expectation — Certainty — Helplessness — Apprehension = Anxiety

Each of these states fuels and drives the others, keeping the pattern in place. If any of these levels of experience is altered, the person will begin to recover. For example, if one begins to feel that they could panic in the future instead of thinking they will panic, the anxiety diminishes. If they begin to feel that it they may panic, but if they do they can cope and they’ll be fine, the anxiety also reduces.

Why does this occur?

Surprisingly, the pattern of anxiety is actually the solution to a problem. In the face of perceived danger, the mind adapts and finds a way to cope. If you’re in danger, your survival instinct takes over to keep you safe. The pattern of anxiety is a way to keep you safe. Such a pattern may have had an evolutionary function in human history, helping us avoid things that hurt us in the past and keeping us from putting ourselves in unnecessary danger. In a modern society however, where we are generally safe and survival is rarely a major concern, excessive anxiety is unnecessary and is ineffective at keeping us safe. The pattern is based on the assumption that the individual is in danger when in reality, the danger is over.

Anxiety and Neuro-Linguistic Programs

In order to function, a computer must run software programs. Without the software, a computer can’t do a whole lot. The programs installed on a computer enable us to achieve all sorts of tasks from playing games to completing our taxes.

To function, we also need software. It is our unique programming that allows us to operate in the world and accomplish all sorts of things. Our individual programs are signals that guide how we think, feel and act.

We have programs to:

Relate to and communicate with others
Make decisions
Deal with challenges and setbacks
Accomplish tasks and achieve goals
Interpret and understand events and circumstances
Motivate ourselves

And the list goes on.

According to NLP, these programs are thought of as Neuro Linguistic Programs.

What is it that makes up human experience? In exploring how people created their individual and distinct subjective experiences, the co-founders of NLP broke human experience down into its building blocks.


The fives senses and physiology (our neurology)

Every human experience involves and combines the five senses in some way. For example, to have anxiety, one must vividly imagine unwanted future scenarios.

Visual (seeing)
Auditory (hearing)
Kinesthetic (feeling and touch)
Olfactory (smell)
Gustatory (taste)

This includes which senses we are using for a certain experience, how much we’re using them, how we’re using them and in what sequence. Which modality is dominant and which ones are absent?


Every human experience has a certain physiology. For example, being depressed requires looking down, limiting movement and shallow breathing. It gets hard to maintain the state if you’re doing jumping jacks or running a marathon.

Facial expression
Eye accessing cues
Muscle tension
Breathing (speed and depth)


The words we use to describe our experience also shape our experience. By labeling, classifying and categorizing our experience we create various subjective experiences and states of mind.


According to the above, our “programs” are made up of:

- Which senses were using and how we’re using them
- How we’re using our body
- What language we are using

These are called programs in part because, according to NLP thinking, they are not hardwired, but learned patterns. If they are learned patterns, we can alter them and update those one which aren’t working for us. In short, we can learn new programs in order to function more effectively in life.

Any human skill or problem can be understood by uncovering the Neuro Linguistics that drive it.

Anxiety and The Hypnotic Effects of Language

According to NLP, anxiety and panic are Neuro-Linguistic experiences. What this means is that they are created in us by the use of our senses, body (physiology) and our language. To experience anxiety, we have to use our mind, body and our language in very specific ways. If we change any of these elements, we find ourselves in different states of mind, thinking differently and engaging in different behaviours.

I encourage clients to use words other than anxiety for this same reason. Once, I was working with a client who kept saying “I’m anxious.” I asked him how he felt when he used those words. His answer was no surprise to me: “I feel more anxious.” My response was this: “What could you call this experience that would be more useful for you?” He sat back for a moment and thought before he answered, “Being concerned.” I asked him how he felt when he described it that way; “More calm,” he said.

Anxiety is not the experience, it is merely the label. The same is true of the word panic. We have an experience with our senses (we see images, hear words or sounds and feel feelings) and then we put words to it. Once we label something, we mistake the label for the experience itself, but they are different, and how we label something affects our experience of it.

Some people might say, “But I need to stay true to my feelings.” But anxiety is not the feeling, panic is not the feeling, they are merely the labels. We don’t want to lie about how we feel or be inauthentic with ourselves, but we do want to use more effective language. Often we’ve never examined the words we are using and so we disempower ourselves with outdated labels. And anxiety has become a buzzword.

The words we use have a hypnotic effect on us. Where does you mind go when you hear the word “democracy” or ‘freedom” “love” or “Nazism”? These words are vague, lacking in specificity and so they send the mind on a search. We have to search through our own experience and bring to mind associations, memories or ideas to make sense of these words. Using words like “anxiety” and “panic” becomes a form of self-hypnosis. The more one says them, the more they feel the feelings and think the thoughts that are associated with them. Where does your mind go when you use words such as peace, calm, confidence, balance etc. Saying to yourself “I want to be calm” instead of “I don’t want to be anxious” sends your mind in a new direction.


The NLP strategy model shows the sequence of mental events one goes through to experience anxiety.

Internal dialogue -> imagery -> feelings

Those suffering from anxiety characteristically ask themselves, “What if I have a panic attack” which then leads them to imagine it occurring: In their mind they play a movie of themselves panicking or experiencing other unwanted situations that must be avoided (going crazy, passing out etc.) By vivdly imagining these worst case scenarios, they literally put themselves into a state of fear. The more they try to avoid anxiety, the more anxious they feel. Anxiety occurs because trying to avoid panic actually leads to panic.

The study of hypnosis reveals a type of hypnotic phenomena known as ideosensory trance. In ideosensory trance, a person vividly experiences sights and sounds in their mind. Essentially, as one thinks about a sensory response, they create vivid mental imagery and then experience the imagined response. In this way, the experience of anxiety is a sort of hypnotic trance; the person is literally hypnotizing themselves into a state of fear.

What keeps the pattern running is that this strategy is most often out of awareness. The individual is aware of the feeling and sensations, which are really the symptoms and not the cause.

Internal Dialogue

The experience of anxiety is driven by internal dialogue that is out of control. The person actually talks themselves into a panic. “What if” questions are common, usually followed by scenarios to be avoided (panic, passing out, going crazy) as are phrases such as “Oh my God.” The continuous and incessant internal voice is the opposite of what is occurring when one is in a state of peace or calm.

Though it is not the words alone that intensify the unpleasant emotions. What amplifies the fear and worry into panic are the qualities of this voice: The internal dialogue is fast, loud and the tonality worried. Consider how you feel when someone yells at you vs. when someone speaks to you with a calm voice.


It is possible for an individual to think of worst-case scenarios without feelings of anxiety, so what makes the difference? According to the NLP model, it is the submodalities of the pictures that amplify the emotional response and give the individual the sense that their expectation is a certainty and not merely a possibility. Pictures of unwanted future scenarios are usually large, close, in colour, bright and vivid, giving the mind the signal that they are real and imminent. They may actually be movies rather than still pictures, which also serves to increase the emotional intensity. The individual struggling with anxiety is fixated on horror movies in their own mind.


As the initial experience could be considered a form of trauma, the mind and body find ways to cope. The pattern of anxiety forms as the solution to a problem: danger. Characteristic of cases of Panic Disorder is a type of dissociation in which a “part” of the person is split off. In a way, it like a distinct personality that lies dormant at times and takes over at others when triggered by anxiety-inducing stimuli.

This “anxiety part” has it’s own way of thinking, it’s own belief system, which differs markedly from the individuals normal way of thinking. This explains why they can say that they know the anxiety is illogical and irrational, but it still occurs.

This part also has its own agenda. Most often, its purpose is safety and protection. During or after the original traumatic event, this part split off as an adaptation. In the face of danger, this part formed with the purpose of safety and protection.

Another type of hypnotic phenomena is evident here: regression. The thinking of this part is akin to a child that feels helpless in the face of danger. A part like this is then in conflict with the person’s rational views. It feels the person is in danger and since it has the intelligence of a child, won’t question it’s own paradigm. It becomes inflexible and militant about its objective. In a way, this part acts as a defense mechanism pushing the person into a pattern of fear and avoidance.

Hypervigilance of body functioning

Because of their sense of danger and the expectation that they will panic, normal body functions and changes can be interpreted in ways that fuels the anxiety. Aspects of our experience such as breathing and heartbeat are automatic and normally out of conscious awareness. Heightened awareness or hypervigilance of bodily functions is an interesting experience. The suffer of anxiety may become of normal changes in heartbeat and think think something is wrong with their heart or they are about to have another panic attack (or a heart attack). Already apprehensive, they may notice their breathing and feel that they can’t breath or that their breathing is restricted, which may lead to hyperventilation. They may notice bodily pains and interpret them as meaning something is terribly wrong or they have an undiagnosed illness. Efforts to control breathing or heartbeat will worsen the problem as these processes can only function properly when they are automatic.

The Meta-Programs of Anxiety

Meta-Programs are thinking, communication and behavioural styles. In essence, they are like the lenses we wear when interpreting the world and so, shape our interpretation of it. Any human experience can be understood by exploring the meta-programs that help to create it and examining how they interact and influence the interpretation of information.

Away from motivation

The pattern of anxiety is characterized by excessive avoidance of possible internal experiences. Anxiety is not fear, it is fear of fear. By wanting to avoid unpleasant experiences, the individual creates them. This is know is NLP as an away from meta-program. Because the person is so focused on what is to be avoided (panic, heart attack, illness, loss of control) that they have nothing to move toward. Without an outcome, they keep running in circles within the anxiety system. Use of a toward meta-program, meaning focusing on what is desired and to move toward (ie. peace, comfort, control), is required for change to occur. Instead of avoiding anxiety, panic and fear, the individual needs to learn how to move toward calm, peace, confidence etc.

Optimists tend to expect that things will turn out well, problems will be solve and believe there is light at the end of the tunnel. Optimists are best-case thinkers as they tend to expect the best. Pessimists, or worst-case thinkers, tend to expect catastrophe. When things go wrong, they’re convinced that the worst-case scenario is the most likely. It is worst-case thinking that drives the pattern of anxiety. Combined with away from motivation, the person spends their mental energy avoiding imagined worst-case scenarios. More optimistic ideas such as “I am alright,” “I’ll be fine,” “I’ll recover,” “I can handle this” are not part of their thinking.

Some people are active in that they take charge, take responsibility, take action towards their goals. Others tend to think, wait, analyze and consider. The anxious individual is most skilled at thinking and analyzing. This skill becomes destructive when they think about, analyze and worry about the worst-case scenarios they want to avoid. The combination of these three meta-programs leaves little possibility for effective action or progress. Instead, it keeps them going around in circles.

Mapped At Cause

A second element that keeps the pattern in place is that the individual is convinced that the anxiety is something that “happens” to them. With so many elements of the pattern out of awareness, this is no surprise. Also, if the pattern of anxiety functions as a defense, then the defense has to hide itself from the radar. If it is found out, the cover is blown. To function, any defense needs to hide itself or it no longer works.

Inherent in the language that individuals suffering from anxiety use to describe this type of problem are expressions that put control of the problem out of their hands. Psychologically, they think of it as something that happens to them instead of a result they have an active part in producing. The wording of “panic attack” is interesting in and of itself as it implies that panic attacked. Few clients sit down at the therapist’s office and say “I was walking along and panic stepped around the corner and attacked me.” The reality is, panic does not attack. It is not a thing, nor a force or an entity. It cannot attack you.

Change requires that the cause of the problem be attributed to it’s source, which, in the case of anxiety, is a certain way of using one’s mind, ie. beliefs, internal dialogue, imagined scenarios etc. Instead of saying, “I had a panic attack,” I encourage clients to language their experience in ways such as “I worked myself up,” “I freaked myself out,” or any other way of putting it that is useful for them and moves them beyond labels that leave them powerless. This puts them back in control of their own experience.

Anxiety Model Summary


An initial memory of an experience of intense fear or panic. Because this experience was so unpleasant, the individual wants to avoid it. They are convinced it will happen again and want to avoid it. Other memories may play a factor as well.

Anxiety Strategy:

Internal dialogue -> imagery -> feelings

They ask themselves, “What if I have a panic attack” which then leads them to imagine this occurring: in their mind they play a movie of themselves panicking or experiencing other unwanted situations that must be avoided.

Auditory Digital Submodalities: Loud, fast, close, worried or fearful tone.

Visual Submodalities: Close, large, in colour, bright, moving,


The initial experience causes a part to be split off, essentially an anxiety part. This part believes they are in danger and turns to primitive defenses (such as avoidance) to maintain safety. This explains why the anxiety sufferer will know intellectually that the anxious thoughts are irrational or unnecessary, but feel powerless to do anything about it.

Away from motivation:Excessive avoidance instead of clear objectives to move toward.

Not at cause: Anxiety is thought of as something that happens to them, not as a process they engage in. Panic is seen as something that attacks them, as they are unaware of how they intensify their emotions (internal dialogue, tone of voice, pictures).

How Do We Resolve Anxiety?

1. Understanding anxiety and it’s symptoms.

No one can overcome a psychological problem that they attribute to external causes. The first step is to understand that anxiety is not a thing that attacks you nor something that ‘happens’ to you, but a result one obtains by doing specific things with their mind. The model presented above outlines each of the pieces and how they contribute to creating states of anxiety and panic.

2. Recoding Memories

Since the unpleasant memories are acting as a template telling the individual how to think and feel, how these memories are coded must be modified. Processes that can be used for this are:

• Time Line Therapy
• Reimprinting
• The trauma cure

These processes will lead to greater peace and control.

3. Learning to Direct Internal Dialogue

As the anxiety sufferer has lost control of their own internal dialogue, they must learn how to use it in ways that lead to other states.

Through NLP submodality interventions, one learns to alter the qualities of the voice – slowing the speed, lowering the volume, changing the tone, etc. As one does this, they’ll find that changing the qualities of the voice changes the resulting emotions. By turning the volume all the way down, they can turn the voice off completely and enter more calm and peaceful states.

It will also be helpful to learn more effective internal dialogue:

Instead of “What if I panic?” they can begin to direct their mind with more helpful questions such as ” How can I stay calm?” They can also learn to break their own pattern of anxiety by saying things to themselves such as “Shup up!”

4. Parts

The anxiety experience is driven by a part convinced of impending danger that is split off from the rest of the person. NLP offers several interventions to resolve this inner conflict such as:

• Parts integration
• Parts negotiation
• Core transformation

Each of these processes will lead to greater peace and alignment inside.

5. Kinesthetic Sensations

Although people rarely notice, different feelings move in different directions in the body. Each time I’ve worked with an anxiety sufferer, they will make the same gesture when describing their anxiety or nervousness. The gesture mirrors how the feeling moves in their body. Here we can ask, “Where does the feeling start and where does it go?” The response, (eg. “It starts in my stomach and it moves up to my throat) will reflect the gesture, in this case a clockwise hand motion.

Individuals can learn to enter instant states of calm and relaxation with a technique called “Spinning the Feeling” from Richard Bandler’s Neuro-Hypnotic Repatterning.

Anxiety is not a thing, it is an experience made of building blocks. The psychological pieces lead to emotions and behaviours. By making changes to these building blocks, the result is greater control and peace of mind.

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The NLP Approach to Treating Anxiety

Anxiety bring more people to treatment than any other psychological condition. “The craze for anxiety” has made anxiety treatments a billion dollar industry. Type “anxiety treatment” in Google and you’ll find all kinds of “cures” and “solutions” of nearly infinite variety, from various forms of psychotherapy, non-traditional approaches such as hypnotherapy, courses, books and seminars, and of course, perhaps the most popular treatment, medication.

What really works?

In the quest for relief, many sufferers of anxiety will have tried many things with only minor benefits… and little or no understanding of the true nature of anxiety.

There is little evidence that the use of medication alone reduces the frequency and severity of symptoms. Many exhibit the same levels of fear and avoidance after treatment with drugs as before. Other methods may take years or provide only temporary relief. Repeatedly it is cognitive NLP-style methods for change that have proven to be most effective.

Anxiety: Mind or Body?

The way we think of a problem will determine how we approach it and how we attempt to treat it, and conceptions of anxiety may lead to either resolution of anxiety or persistence of symptoms.

The Medical Model
Popular conceptions suggest that anxiety is an illness requiring medical treatment. According to these ideas, the symptoms of anxiety are caused by a chemical imbalance, the brain’s hard-wiring or genetic inheritance. Yet, research does not support any of these claims. To attribute anxiety to a chemical imbalance is overly simplistic and does not account for the range of symptoms or cognitive biases displayed by sufferers of anxiety. Studies have shown that the role of genetics is only partial and may lead to a predisposition to develop anxiety symptoms, but not a full-fledged condition. Although brain scans of someone suffering from anxiety differ from other non-sufferers, scans after treatments will show that activation in certain areas of the brain has changed. This means that anxiety has a physiological counterpart, but not that anxiety is caused by physiology.

The medicalization of anxiety symptoms has a number of consequences. By defining anxiety as an illness or medical condition, many are left feeling that there is little they can do for relief. Sufferers may find themselves feeling like victims of their symptoms and may come to identify with their condition (I’m just an anxious person, there’s not much I can do). These views prevent individuals from resolving their anxiety and can lead to it becoming a life-long condition.

Is medication a solution to anxiety?

The medical model proposes that the solution to anxiety is medication. This is extremely profitable for pharmaceutical companies, attractive to doctors as it is simple and straightforward to write a prescription, and perhaps highly desirable by sufferers in search of rapid relief. But medication is not a solution. It does not resolve anxiety, it reduces the symptoms and provides relief.

The downside to medication as a treatment for anxiety, besides numerous unpleasant side effects, is that it does not help the sufferer resolve any of the issues underlying the anxiety symptoms. Anxiety is not the problem, it is the symptom of a problem. Medication does not solve the causes. Once medication is terminated, the severity of symptoms tends to return to previous levels. Also, medication doesn’t enable a person to learn new and more effective strategies for dealing with stressful life events, handle worries and challenges or acquire tools for taking charge of overwhelming emotions and planning for the future.

The Cognitive Model
More and more popular are cognitive approaches to anxiety. With the growing popularity of CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy) and methods such as NLP, and greater research into anxiety, cognitive models provide a more complete explanation for the variety of symptoms characteristic of anxiety. In addition, research consistently shows that cognitive treatments provide the greatest long-term benefits to sufferers of anxiety.

According the much recent research, anxiety is not an illness, but rather, a normal human ability that has become extreme and excessive. It’s normal to think of the future, consider what may go wrong and plan accordingly. Yet in cases of anxiety, this future focus and the consideration of what may go wrong becomes extreme and uncontrollable to the point where the fear and apprehension become overwhelming.

Cognitive approaches also emphasize that anxiety may be learned through normal learning processes and can be treated through learning-based approaches (the basis of behavioural therapies).

What is Anxiety?

Cognitive models see anxiety as caused by biases in Information processing:

Excessively negative predictions of the future
Sufferers of anxiety become convinced that unavoidable negative events will occur.
Attention directed to threatening stimuli
Focus is upon danger and the avoidance of danger and unwanted events and circumstances.
Self-focused attention
Individuals with anxiety focus excessively on their own feelings, responses and bodily sensations, often to the exclusion of external stimuli.
Misinterpretation of bodily sensations
Individuals interpret ambiguous bodily sensations as indicative of a heart attack, panic attack, fainting or other unwanted consequence.

In short, we could say that the anxious person is highly focused on what could go wrong in the future, convinced it will happen and then highly focused on their own bodily reactions which are seen as evidence that something is wrong or will go wrong. These biases lead to a vicious cycle of fear and apprehension that is difficult to escape.

Sufferers of anxiety may often have been told, “It’s all in your head.” Actually, it begins in the mind and then moves to the body. The mind produces powerful signals of danger which the body responds to by activating the autonomic nervous system (fight or flight response). The individual is then left overwhelmed by perceptions of danger, the release of adrenaline and other chemical changes and feeling helpless to do anything about it. Often, the best advice others can give is “relax” or “think positive,” each of which the sufferer find it impossible to do. These are overly simple solutions to a complex problem.

Anxiety can be defined as a self-reinforcing cycle of constant fear and apprehension resulting from unconscious and automatic patterns of thinking that have emotional and physiological effects. It is by correcting these cognitive biases and altering the structures that are holding the cycle in place that anxiety can be resolved.

Anxiety and NLP

The NLP approach to anxiety begins by viewing anxiety as a unique skill. In the NLP model, problems are seen as learned responses that demonstrate the rapidity with which the mind can learn. The implication is also that since the problem was learned and probably learned quickly, we can learn to do new things with our mind rather quickly.

In a transcript of a therapy session in which Richard Bandler (one of the co-founders of NLP), helps a woman resolve her symptoms of panic he states these ideas overtly:

Richard: You’ve obviously mastered this. By the way, do you know this is an achievement?

Susan: You mean to master the panic?

Richard: I bet you a lot of people here couldn’t panic.

Susan: Probably not. Not like I do, I’m sure.

Richard: It’s like everything else. It’s learned. There is a real difference between my view of people which is that one of that one of the things about people is that they are such exquisite learners. I’m always amazed at how people can learn things so quickly. A lot of what they learn is not worth having learned. Think about how many futile things you’ve learned. But the fact that you can learn all those things is really impressive. (Magic In Action, 15-16)

Bandler goes on to help her uncover how she produces the panic and helps her see that she is doing something with her mind that others in the audience may not be able to do. Then he helps her to resolve the panic completely with an NLP intervention (verified by a follow-up months later in which she reports that since the session, she has had no episode of panic).

The Strengths of Anxiety
The NLP model views problems as skills and this means that each unique problem takes unique skills.

If you wanted to have a problem with anxiety, what skills would you need?

Anxiety takes creativity, imagination and energy. To produce the symptoms of anxiety one needs to be able to vividly imagine future scenarios, and so vividly that it is as if they are real. Not everyone can do this! I have suggested to clients, especially those looking for a new career path, that they may be well-suited to write horror novels or produce horror films (which is usually follows by a giggle of recognition). Are the skills involved in anxiety any different from those that Stephen King has used to earn millions? He spends his time imagining worst case scenarios and frightening events… the difference is that he imagines them happening to someone else!

In the above-mentioned transcript, Bandler points out to Susan that she requires a photographic memory to be able to produce her symptoms and suggests that she use that ability for a more constructive purpose:

Richard says: “You could use that, for example, imagine if you could see pages of books and focus in that closely you could read them again. Have a whole library there. What you use to create panic is what I use to check stubs and things like that.” (Magic In Action, 18)

This approach to anxiety is more effective than any attempt to “cure” the client because instead of trying to change things, the individual’s unique abilities can be utilized and directed to help them accomplish their goals.

Perhaps even more importantly, NLP approaches view anxiety and other problems as made up of building blocks. One of the basic ideas of NLP is that every experience has a structure. By uncovering the psychological pieces creating a problem and understanding how they work (as opposed to why they are there), we can determine how to intervene to create a change. NLP methods aim to alter the structure of thinking.

Another important aspect of the NLP approach to anxiety helps to turn the client from a victim into an expert. As the sequence of mental events that produces the symptoms of anxiety is unconscious and automatic, sufferers feel that anxiety is something that happens to them. From this view point, the sufferer is a victim of their own mental processes. Statements such as “I had a panic attack” imply that panic is some sort of alien force that takes over. When clients use this statement I will ask, “So you were sort of walking along and panic stepped around the corner and attacked you?” From this slightly humorous response, individuals can see through the trick of language here and learn a more useful way of perceiving their symptoms.

The NLP approach helps people view anxiety and it’s symptoms as something they do with their mind and helps them learn how they produce this result. As one learns how they produce the symptoms the mystery of “Why is this happening to me?” ends and more choices become available.

NLP methods emphasize that “treatment” involves learning to use the skills of anxiety in their appropriate context and to learn new and more effective ways to use one’s mind. Through this learning process, individuals gain the ability to think of the future while remaining calm and resourceful. They then feel more empowered to deal with possibilities, and in a calm confident state, can determine what actions to take to achieve their objectives (instead of the only option they use to have which was to panic).

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Unleashing Performance: NLP and Neuro-Semantics for Accelerated Achievement

There is an obsession with performance in our culture. Those who perform the at the highest level, succeed the most in business or sports, who achieve the most and earn the most money become our heroes and the focus of inpsiration admiration or envy.

But in a society that places so much value on being the best and having the most, why do so many people struggle with performance?

Indeed, high performers are the exception, not the norm, and while some make millions or billions, the rest pump billions into the self-help industry to find the magical solution to health, wealth and success… Often only to be disappointed no matter what they do.

Why is performance such a mystery?

Most people have little understanding of human psychology and even less of human performance. When it come to achievement, many people are shooting in the dark, hoping what they do will work, hoping for a big break… yet wondering why they constantly face the same challenges.

What if this is no accident?

Performance tends to be consistent. People tend to get the same results in a certain area of their life day after day. In business, they keep getting the same number of clients, making the same amount of sales and earning the same amount of money. In sports, they keep making the same mistakes, achieving the same times and scoring the same scores. People keep having the same types of relationships, facing the same challenges and feeling like there’s something eerie going on.

What this reveals is that performance is systematic, even if it is poor. Poor performance is actually an achievement itself. How is it that one can keep performing at the same level day after day, getting the same results even despite the additional learning, practice and experience? Even despite changes in life, the world, the economy?

Performance is no accident… It is a perfect mirror of one’s psychology.

Performance Insights from NLP and Neuro-Semantics.

“I made $30,000 last night… and since we began this coaching I have made over $100,000″

This was the news that one of my clients shared with me one morning when he arrived for his appointment. We had been working together to improve his performance as a trader, and the results were pretty impressive.

I left this session and remembered another client who had come to me to boost her sales. Once we had completed our work, her sales had doubled. I began to think about how performance worked. What had happened that enabled these individuals to unleash their performance? What had been holding them back? How did we get it out of the way? As I considered these questions, I began to develop a clear framework of just what I was doing with these clients and how NLP and Neuro-Semantic thinking had helped to solve their performance challenges.

The following is a cognitive framework that can be used to understand performance challenges and boost results in any area of life.

How Performance Works: The Axis of Performance

Performance occurs on a continuum between two “opposing forces,” what I call the axis of performance.

If you’d like to enhance performance in an area of your life, in a team or in a business, there are two factors already present: where you are now (the present state of affairs or the “problem”) and where you’d like to be (the desired state or objective.)

The first step to improving performance is to get a clear picture of the present and desired states. If you want to find effective ways to achieve your objective, you need a clear understanding of your current state. Otherwise, your efforts to change may be in vain. Without a clear outcome, you’ll merely be stuck trying to get rid of a problem, which is rarely an effective way to boost performance.

Present State ——————————— Desired State

With a clear present state and outcome, we are faced with an important question:

What’s between the present and desired states?

Most people try to win the game of success by playing out in the world. They may set goals, read books, take courses, and they may even take action, but what many don’t realize is that while they play the outer game, they’re losing the inner game.

What’s in between the two ends of the axis of performance are the various building blocks of human psychology.

As we go through life, we acquire “programming” as the various levels of our psychology are shaped. This programming becomes habituated in a cognitive system and forms our personality. While we try to perform in the world, our programming gets in the way. But while trying and trying to succeed, few even become aware of what they’re carrying around in their own minds.

The Structure of Personality

Internal Representations and Submodalities

So what’s between where you are and where you want to be? All that!, meaning the various elements of and building blocks of your psychology. In a way we could say that what is between you and what you want is your “personality,” the psychological system that has become seemingly “fixed” in place and makes you who you are.

Most people struggle with performance because their internal programming is perfectly aligned with their present state. This is why they get the same mediocre results again and again, effortlessly! This is also why efforts to boost performance fail. In battle between good intention or will-power and unconscious programming, unconscious programming will always win.

The Axis of Performance looks like this:

What Stops You?

Present State ————————————- Desired State


Beliefs – Needs – Values – Memories

Parts – Physiology – Time-Encoding

Meta-Programs – Internal Representations

When it comes to the achievement of a desired objective, we can look at these aspects of psychology as interferences. These elements, and the way they interact, interfere with achieving what you want, and most often, they are limitations due to “unfinished business,” mental habits that are were acquired essentially by chance and strategies that were once but are no longer effective.

One of the most common performance errors people make is that they are so committed to their objective that they find themselves unable to slow down and take the time to find out what is really in their way. Their motivation becomes a limitation because each time they get pumped up, they “go for it” and get the same old disappointing results. This can lead to a state of helplessness as they become convinced that nothing will work since they’ve “tried everything.”

Imagine someone who wants to drive to Arizona and their car has broken down. They really really want to get their, they don’t want to be dealing with a breakdown and so they stand by the side of the road angry, frustrated, kicking the tires and thinking more and more about how much they “just” want to get to Arizona. What they need to do is take the time, all the time is takes, to look inside the car and find out what isn’t working so they can correct it. Only then can they get on their way. What they don’t see is that there’s something else they have to do to get where they want to go. Motivation to “get there” doesn’t cut it.

Winning the Inner Game

Using this model, we can:

- Determine all the elements of a problem
- Understand how they fit together, interact and influence each other
- Discover what holds the system or problem in place and is preventing change
- Decide precisely where to intervene and how

This model can help anyone understand the factors hindering their results and determine next steps to optimize the mechanics of their mind. With this model in the back of my mind, in working with clients I look for which of the above-mentioned elements is in the way, what might be keeping things the way they are, and then determine appropriate methods to intervene.

Many people learn NLP techniques and use them haphazardly, wondering why “it didn’t work.” In order to know what to do what, a challenge must be considered in light of the desired state and along with all the other influencing factors. If there are 5 different interferences in the way that all vary in structure (eg. a memory, parts conflict and a limiting belief) then doing one NLP technique to “fix” things isn’t going to work. You have to cover all your bases.

When the elements of one’s psychology are aligned with a desired result, achievement becomes natural and automatic. It becomes a sort of “well of course I achieve that.” When you win the inner game, it becomes much easier to win the outer game.

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The Structure of Personality

The question of personality has been central to the field of psychology since its birth only a couple hundred years ago. Even before, people tried to answer fundamental questions about who we are:

• Why do we do what we do?
• Why are we the way we are?
• Can we change our personality?

Countless theories have been proposed to answer these questions and the public consensus today seems to be that:

• Much of our personality is inherited – who we are is a result of genes and brain chemistry.
• Our personality is fixed when we are young – now it is just the way we are.
• Some personality traits are normal and others are pathological.

But what if there is more to personality? What if our most common conceptions about personality are incorrect?

Denominalizing Personality

When we speak about personality we refer to it as if it were a thing: “She’s got a great personality,” or “His personality is lacking.”

In linguistic terminology, this type of word is known as a “nominalization.” By a trick of language we turn something dynamic into something fixed and static. But personality is not a thing. Personality is a fluid process of habituated ways of thinking, feeling, acting and relating; it is more something we do than something have or are.

What are the building blocks of personality?

As we unfreeze and denominalize “personality,” we break something down into it’s components. So what are the pieces that make up human experience and the building blocks of personality?

Human experience can be divided into a number of categories. They are:

• Beliefs
• Values
• Needs
• Memories
• Language
• Time-Encoding
• Meta-Programs
• States
• Strategies
• Modalities and Submodalities
• Self-talk
• Physiology
• Parts


As we go through life, we form beliefs about what is true. Based on our experiences we form generalizations about relatinships, life, the world, others, the future etc. We make decisions about who we are, our worth, our capabilities, our place in the world. Many of these we’ll form at a very young age and these will be our core beliefs- those most central to our experiences and most resistant to change. We’ll also take on beliefs from our parents, teachers and other role models, from society, culture, religion and education.

Some examples of beliefs are:

Others are out to get me vs. People are kind and loving.
The world is dangerous vs. The world is full of good things.
I am not good enough vs. I am a unique individual with much to offer.

Beliefs act as signals to the nervous system telling us how to think, feel and behave. Most of our beliefs are unconscious, acting as invisible forces that shape personality. Since beliefs tend to stay the same, so do our habitual ways of thinking, feeling and responding.


As we go through life, we also take on values. We make decisions about what is important. We decide which areas of our life are most important (friends, relationships, career, achievement etc.) and we decide what is most important in each of these areas.

Examples of values:

Safety and security
Being right

Our values act as a compass helping us to make decisions, driving our motivation and helping us to evaluate our life conditions. If we succeed at actualizing our values, we tend to be happy. If we do not, we find ourselves unfulfilled or even depressed.

Our values are organized in a hierarchy and it is our top values that most drive and shape our experience. Consider what a person is like when their top value is love vs. what someone is like whose top value is achievement.


Each of us has basic psychological needs we must meet. According to Human Needs Psychology, those needs are:


Each of us emphasizes certain of these needs more than others and we each find different ways to meet them (based on our beliefs).

What is someone like whose top need is certainty? They want things to stay the same, they value routine and they don’t want to rock the boat. They want to know what’s coming and they like their comfort.

What about someone whose top need is significance? They likely value achievement, will likely want to stand out or surpass others. If someone tells you they want to make a billion dollars, they’re probably going for significance.

Which needs we value most and how we go about meeting those needs shapes our personality.


Everyone has had different experiences and those experiences shape us. This is so party because we form beliefs and values based on our experiences, but also because we carry those memories around inside of us.

Our most powerful memories act as templates telling us how to think, act and feel. They inform our expectations giving us an idea of what is to come (that’s often false) so we know how to behave. You may have long since forgotten, but your mind remembers… and many people have repressed memories that are informing their personality in the present. Also, the way we remember things shapes our everyday experience (see submodalities).


We perceive the world with our senses and then we translate what we see, hear and feel into words. Using we language, we label, classify and categorize, and then mistake the words for the experience they represent.

We forget, for example, that anxiety is not a thing, it is just a label denoting a certain experience. We use metaphors such as “I am hanging by a thread” or “The future is bleak” without realizing that these are not realities, they are merely descriptions.

The importance of language when it comes to personality is that the language we use habitually shapes our experience. What happens when someone consistently uses extreme language such as “I hit rock bottom” or “This is totally ruined.” What about awfulizing language; “This is awful,” “This is horrible.”

Using words like “enraged” or “anxious” actually impacts our emotional state, even though we think the emotion really is anxiety or rage.


Meta-Programs are thinking, communication and behavioural styles. They are collections of beliefs and values that lead to a certain habitual way of thinking, perceiving and communicating. The meta-program categories help to organize beliefs and values and leave us with a useful tool for understanding ourselves and communicating with others.

Examples of meta-programs:

Toward vs. Away from

Away from: Someone using an away from meta-program tends to focus on what they want to move away from or avoid. They’re attention is usually on what they don’t want and they are motivated to act by deadlines, crises or other undesireable consequences. They can be good problem solvers but at the extreme fall into a pattern of avoidance.

Toward: People using a toward meta-program are focused on what they want. Their attention is on goals and objectives. They are usually achievement oriented and tend not to consider problems and obstacles that can come up on the way to achieving goals. At the extreme may bulldoze toward objectives.

There are a total of 60 meta-programs that each exist along a spectrum and change from context to context. Different Meta-programs lead to very different personality styles.


A state is the sum total of all of our mental and emotional processing at any moment (think “state of mind.”) Over the course of the day, we go in and out of various states but we each have habitual states we spend most of our time in.

Examples of states:


What states are most characteristic of you?

Some people have habituated states of fear, worry, anxiety and stress, whereas others have habituated joy, peace, happiness. We all know people who consistently find themselves in crisis mode (states of urgency and demandingness), others who we feel we need to walk on eggshells around and still others who we equate with Zen and serenity.

The states that we have practices and habituated come to characterize us; others identify us with our most common states.

All thinking is state dependent; how you think is determined by the state you’re in. As a result, our states can serve to keep our other personality patterns in place. Change our habitual states and we change our personality.


Our relationship with time is fundamental to our experience as human beings.

Some people spend most of their time in the past. Their focus is mostly on past memories, on what’s happened, either good or bad. Someone who is depressed for example is usually focused on the past.

Others live in the future. They’re focused on where they want to get to, as in goals and objectives, or on what catastrophes might occur. To experience anxiety, you must be future-focused.

Some are more fundamentally in the present. They are observant and aware of what us going on around them and often able to let go of everything and enjoy the now. Some are stuck in the now and psychologically disconnected from the past or the future. It is in such an “everlasting now” that an addiction will result, as there is little awareness of past troubles or future consequences.

In NLP, one’s relationship with time is described as their timeline. The way one’s timeline is structured will shape the way they think, plan and feel. Changes in the timeline lead to major and rapid changes in emotional state.


Just as we perceive the world through our senses, we think with our senses. We process information mentally through pictures and sounds. Each of us has characteristic ways of using “the cinema of our mind.”


All visual information will have certain characteristics. When you watch a movie, the picture can be described in terms of the visual effects:

Angle: Downward, upward, from the left or the right?
Size: large or small?
Distance: Close up or far away?
Colour: Is it in colour or black and white
Brightness: Is it bright or dim?

According to the NLP submodalities model, all of our internal pictures can be described in the same terms and it is these qualities that we use to give our thoughts meaning. To add to the list above, our internal pictures will have:

Location: Is it in front of you, behind, to the left or right?
Movement: Is it moving or still?
Number: Multiple images or just one?
Association: Are you inside the picture as if you are living it, or outside as if you’re an observer?

Our habitual submodality patterns will lead to habitual ways of thinking, relating and feeling. If problems are encoded as large, bright and close, this will lead to states of urgency and difficulties solving problems. If pictures tend to be still and colourless, this will lead to neutral states and a lack of motivation.

Different submodality patterns create different types of people.


Internal dialogue is an aspect of human experience that has been recognized by almost every psychological approach. The extent to which we use our internal dialogue to navigate the world and make decisions will have an impact on our experience as will what we say to ourselves.

Do we constantly narrate our experience with words, describing what is happening around us or do we tend to be inwardly silent and focused outward?

Do we speak to ourselves with words of encouragement and support or do we fall into self-blame and self-punishment? Do we have other voices in our minds, such as that of a mother, father or mentor?

But it is not just what we hear in our minds, it is also how we hear it. Just as there are visual submodalities, there are auditory submodalities.

Is the internal dialogue or voice:

Coming from inside your head or outside?
On the left or the right?
Loud or soft?
Fast or slow?
And what is the tone? Is it worried, condemning, happy, excited?

These different auditory submodalities are often decisive for people in shaping their habitual states and responses to a variety of events.


According the the NLP model, strategies are the sequences of mental events that enable us to accomplish certain tasks. Strategies are the way we structure and organize our modalities and submodalities for specific purposes.

In a way, they are like recipes. If you combine the right ingredients in the right amount and in the right order, you get a certain result. Change the order, quantity or quality of the ingredients and you get a different results.

Each of us has our own unique strategy for:

• Motivation
• Decision making
• Making sense of reality (reality strategy)
• Coping (stress response – to cope with difficulties)
• Achievement
• Change

If our strategies are effective, we get great results. Any high performer will have highly effective mental strategies that enable them to outdo others in their field. Someone who tends to struggle in a certain area (weight, achievement, relationships) likely has an ineffective strategy that needs to be updated.


Every human experience has a physiological component. The way we use our physiology is directly linked to our emotional states and thus our thinking and reasoning. The habitual use of physiology in certain ways leads to personality traits and communicates information about us to others, often without us knowing it (non-verbal communication).

For example, to be depressed, you need to look down, breath shallow and alter your facial expression. Can you smile and do jumping jacks and get depressed?

Aspects of physiology:

Breathing: shallow or deep, high in the chest or low in the abdomen, fast or slow
Posture: Shoulders back and head up, head down and shoulders forward etc.
Facial expression
Eye accessing cues – tendency to look up left, up right, down left, down right, etc.
Gestures: Tendency to gesture a lot, or little, small gestures or not, symmetrical gesturing or not

One of the fastest ways to change your state of mind is to alter your physiology.


Countless psychological approaches have recognized the idea that people have different “parts” of them. Freud proposed we have an ego, Id and superego, Transactional Analysis put forth the parent, the adult and the child, and the more recent Internal Family Systems accounts for all manner of interacting parts within. Ego-State therapy calls these parts “ego-states” and describes them as aspects of personalities with their own emotional states, intentions, perceptions and behaivours.

In the original NLP literature, the idea of parts was recognized as the structure of an internal conflict; Parts of me wants one thing and part of me wants another. But in reality, there may be one, two or many more parts shaping one’s experience.

Often, when one is unable to control their behaviour or have drastic changes in their experience that are not conscious choices, a part of is involved. In more extreme cases, one internal parts will leads to cases of Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID – formerly known as Multiple Personality Disorder) or Borderline Personality Disorder.

I have put parts last in the list because a part of us can have its own personality – It may have its own beliefs, values, metaprograms, physiology, time-encoding etc. that differs from that of the person or of other parts.

How one is as a person is shaped by parts. We can ask:

• Is there wholeness, or parts in conflict?
• What parts are involved?
• How many parts are there?
• Where did they come from?
• What are they trying to do?

There are numerous NLP techniques to work with parts for change – Parts integration, parts negations, six-step reframing and core transformation. In addition, IFS offers an even more complete methodology for working with parts of us.

Can we change personality?

Having explored each of these elements of personality, the question is no longer, “Can we change personality?” but rather, can we make changes at each of these levels of experience.

Both NLP and Neuro-Semantics provide numerous ways to make changes at each of these levels of experience.

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